Review: David Lynch The Art Life reveals the man whose whole life is art

David Lynch: The Art Life is a revealing documentary about the formative years of one of cinema?s mo

David Lynch: The Art Life is a revealing documentary about the formative years of one of cinema?s most acclaimed and enigmatic directors. Picture: Madman Films - Credit: Madman Films

With the new Twin Peaks back on our TV screens, this revealing documentary offers a timely look at what helped to shape one of cinema's most acclaimed and enigmatic directors.

David Lynch The Art Life (15)

***

Around the time of Elephant Man, Mel Brooks described David Lynch as Jimmy Stewart From Mars (a tired, overused quote, but in over 40 years nobody's topped it). This documentary shows us his 'super happy' childhood, his reasonable and generally supportive parents and how this shaped his unique outlook. It's a portrait of a weirdo born of perfect American contentment.

From there though it needed the tough streets of Philadelphia, and unplanned fatherhood to really shape his vision. The film takes us up to the release of his first full feature, the incomparable Eraserhead.


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Film reviewers kid ourselves that he is a filmmaker, but really he is an artist who dabbles in movies. This crowd funded film is a very dull concept – we see the present day artist at work on his canvases, while he himself tells us about his early life and career before film making.

These are accompanied by photos and bits of cinefilm from the time. We also look at maybe one hundred of his paintings. It should be deadly dull, but such is his presence, and those of paintings, that it is enthralling, as fine a film about a film maker, or any other artist, that I have seen.

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Of course, Lynch tells his own story; it wouldn't real coming from anyone else. He has perfect recall of names and places from 50-60 years earlier. These memories seem much clearer to him, much closer, then with most people. He has that gift for being mundanely wacky, coming up with quotes like, 'for some reason, I always liked the idea of going to Boston.'

In photos the slightly chubby younger Lynch is like Oscar Wilde. He must've taken some beating in Philly, but he doesn't recount them.

The present day Lynch is old but unblemished, and with an immaculate head of hair. You can see the line and aged skin but it's like a layer of inconsequence. He's an Adonis Steptoe.

The Art Life is any off putting title but this is exactly what the film gives us. I remember once listening to Steve Wright In The Afternoon a long, long time ago (when he was still on Radio 1) introducing a Talking Heads record by saying that lead singer was David Byrne was so arty he could probably talk for hours about making a cup of tea. There was a snide anti-intellectualism inferred but his remark came back to me watching this documentary. Because he is a man whose whole life is art, and is so without contrivance or effort, it's just the way he is.

• David Lynch The Art Life is being screened at Cinem,a City, Norwich, on July 24 and 26. More details HERE

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